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Reminder: COVID-Relief Grants Can Be Applied to Mortgages

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Friday issued a reminder to all grantees--states, cities, communities, and nonprofits-who received Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) or Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) fund--that they may use these funds to provide rental assistance or other aid to individuals experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic and are at risk of being evicted, consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and guidance, according to a statement Friday.

The HUD announcement further stated "reiteration" of the recent White House and CDC decision to expand a moratorium on evictions, noting the administration's "commitment to minimize displacements and evictions resulting from the COVID-19 global pandemic" and "fighting the spread of COVID-19 by providing assistance to renters and homeowners.

In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the CDC last week stated in writing. “Eviction moratoria facilitate self-isolation by people who become ill or who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition.”  

“From day one of this pandemic, the administration has done everything in our power to ensure that the American people have a roof over their heads during these trying times,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Some housing advocates have said they expect more from the administration.

National Association of Realtors (NAR), for example, stated appreciation and support of administration efforts to ensure struggling Americans can remain in their homes,” however,  NAR President Vince Malta went on to say, this order as-written will bring chaos to our nation’s critical rental housing sector and put countless property owners out of business.” 

“Any eviction moratorium must also come with rental assistance for property owners, the vast majority of which are mom-and-pop investors and are still required to meet their financial obligations even as they cease to receive income on their properties,” Malta said. NAR strongly encourages Congress to pass immediate legislation that would instead provide emergency rental assistance programs directly to housing providers. 

Some grantees already have put CARES funds into effect as HUD has suggested.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), for instance, announced the opening of the state’s new Emergency Mortgage Assistance (EMA) program to assist homeowners who have seen their income decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the EMA program, IHDA will allocate grants up to $15,000 to help income-eligible homeowners who have struggled to make their mortgage payments as a result of the pandemic. IHDA expects to assist approximately 10,000 households before the end of 2020.

“At a time when the connection between housing and health is clearer than ever, it is critically important that we keep families stably housed for individual well-being, public health and the recovery of our state’s economy,” Pritzker told the Canton Daily Ledger. “My administration remains committed to doing everything we can to provide much-needed support for Illinois residents who have been hit hardest by the pandemic, which is why we created the largest state housing assistance programs in the nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to date. The Emergency Mortgage Assistance program will provide critical support for our homeowners, giving them the time they need to regain their financial footing.”

HUD stated that it "continues to provide technical assistance to grant recipients to prevent evictions and keep people in their homes throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, "the Department provided virtual office hours for grantees to ensure relief funds are being used quickly and efficiently. HUD has issued a toolkit for landlords and Public Housing Authorities so they can work with their tenants during this difficult financial time. Additionally, HUD has extended its Single-Family eviction and foreclosure moratorium for FHA insured Single-Family homes three times, has promoted the Department’s Housing Counselor services, and issued guidance for lenders," according to its statement.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media/Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning news, among others. Contact Christina at [email protected]

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